Copa América will kickoff in Brazil on Sunday (June 13) after the country’s Supreme Federal Court ruled against calls for it to be cancelled amid fears that it could help make the country’s already dire fight against COVID-19 worse.
Brazil has been one of the worst hit countries in the world when it comes to the coronavirus pandemic, with almost 480,000 deaths and another wave seemingly on the way.
The majority decision of the 11-judge Court means that the Copa América in Brazil will be able to begin on Sunday featuring 10 teams in a tournament taking place in four cities and due to conclude with the final on July 10.
Original co-hosts Argentina and Colombia fell through over a COVID-19 surge in the former and violent anti-Government protests in the latter.
Brazil had stepped in last week as an emergency host, after the South American Football Confederation - CONMEBOL - pulled the plug on Argentina, where there have been more than four million cases of coronavirus and over 83,000 deaths.
Far-right President Jair Bolsonaro, who has regularly defied expert advice on containing the pandemic, gave his blessing to host the Copa América after the Brazilian Football Association offered itself as host.
The decision has provoked outrage in Brazil with Supreme Court petitions filed by the national metalworkers' union, the Brazilian Socialist Party and the Workers' Party of former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, Bolsonaro's likely opponent in Presidential elections next year, to try to get the event blocked.
British alcoholic beverage company Diageo became the latest company to withdraw its sponsorship of the tournament following the public outcry "out of respect".
They joined Mastercard and drinks company Ambev, who had already pulled out of their sponsorship deals.
Even judges who voted in favour of the tournament being given the green light, however, want extra safety measures added.
"It falls to [State Governors and Mayors] to set the appropriate health protocols and ensure they are respected in order to avoid a 'Copavirus,' with new infections and the emergence of new variants," wrote Justice Carmen Lucia in her ruling.
Teams will undergo mandatory COVID-19 testing every 48 hours.
Their movements will be restricted, and they will travel to matches in the four host cities on chartered flights.
Fans, meanwhile, will not be allowed to attend matches.
Brazil is due to launch the tournament against Venezuela on Sunday in the capital Brasília, one of four cities staging matches along with Cuiabá, Goiânia and Rio de Janeiro.
It will be the sixth time Brazil has hosted the world’s oldest continental football championship, including in 2019 when they beat Peru 3-1 in the final.